Prior to Lee mum being diagnosed with cancer, we hadn't given much thought to volunteering or even thought we had the time to give up. We were both working full time jobs, then there was the house work and social life. It wasn't something that we thought we could possibly fit in.
Then that changed when Lee mum was diagnosed with cancer and we spent a significant amount of time in and out of Talbot Butler Ward in Northampton General Hospital. This lasted for a 4 year period on and off. It made us re-focus and look at what we could do to help others.
Before the charity began, we sat there and watched people "the patients “and their families. We noticed the difficulties people faced - financially, physically and emotionally. Through speaking with people and observing we thought there must be something we could do to help others. We can't cure cancer, but we can make the experiences people have in hospital that little bit better.
An initial way we did this was the purchase of the 14 TV and DVD players for the ward. For me, it was a challenge and it was great. It is what got me into Obstacle Run and normal runs to raise money. Once, I raised enough and the TV's were installed it was great. However, we thought what next? What else can we do? The TV was one way of keeping someone occupied, but what could we for people on a one to one basis.
The gift bag idea came about. Simple, practical things to give people something nice to look forward to, keep people occupied and reduce isolation by spending time with people. That is how The Lewis Foundation began.
We volunteer because we want to help as many people individually as we can when they have cancer. We both still work our full time jobs, but our spare time we volunteer to the charity and helping people within our community. Now, I realise before we thought we didn't have time but we actually do.
So, what does a typical week look for us, ready for gift bags delivery on Friday?
Tuesday Night: Work out the number of gift bags we have and how many we need for Friday delivery to the hospital. This is in addition to working out the number of gift bags needed for day patients in Haematology in Northampton General Hospital and now Oncology in Three Shires. We put together our shopping list. This may include online ordering.
Wednesday Night: We go shopping for the items for the gift bags.
Thursday Night: We put together the gift bags. This involves the labelling of the bags, ensuring leaflets and information are in the bags and putting the products in the bags. Then we box all the bags up ready for delivery on Friday.
Friday Morning: Lee will deliver the gift bags for the day patients. The nurses can then hand out the bags.
Friday Night: Go to Northampton General Hospital and hand out the gift bag. This can take as long as it take. It depends on the number of people on the ward and how long/little people want to talk with us. Some people might not want to talk and just take a bag. Others may want to a longer chat. We are happy to do either.
Our Friday nights are now completely different. We are excited about it being the end of the week, so let's try and create that feeling of looking forward to the end of the week with the gift bags.
Volunteering for us does not feel like working. It feels like we are doing something to bring our local community together to help others. Since, we have started many members of the community have given their time to help us, which in turn helps others who need us. They have joined with us to help achieve that.
It is one of the best things we have ever done.